Sydney's controversial lockout laws have given the city quite the reputation, it would seem.
Midway through Fleetwood Mac's first show at Qudos Bank Arena last night, faced with a somewhat timid weeknight audience, the band's newest member Neil Finn goaded the crowd to get up and dance with a cheeky dig at the Harbour City.
"Remember, you're out of the inner city now, so that means you can have a good time. You can drink and dance as much as you like," he teased. "You know you want to."
This new-look Mac — Lindsey Buckingham was unceremoniously dumped last year, replaced by Crowded House star Finn and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers band member Mike Campbell — may take a moment for some fans to adjust to. It's only as Finn takes centre stage for electric opener The Chain, his vocals carrying the song, that you realise Buckingham's are big shoes to fill.
To address the elephant in the room: No, Buckingham doesn't rate so much as a mention during this two-and-a-half hour show.
Introducing the band, drummer Mick Fleetwood welcomes the two newest members "to this crazy band … we're so lucky to have them in our ranks".
But it's hard to deny just how effortlessly Finn and Campbell gel with the rest of the band. In fact, Finn and Stevie Nicks — oozing star power from the second she steps on stage — provide perhaps the show's beating heart during a stunning pair of acoustic duets. Finn starts with the Crowded House classic Don't Dream It's Over, which prompts the night's biggest audience singalong (no mean feat at a Fleetwood Mac gig). Stevie then joins him on stage, taking over vocals for the second verse.
It's magic. As the woman sat next to me put so succinctly: "WHAT THE F**K!"
And how else could you follow that up but with Landslide? Stevie sings her signature song, Finn gazing at her adoringly as he accompanies on guitar.
Elsewhere, Fleetwood delivers an extended drum solo that's so entertaining you wouldn't want to use it as a bathroom break — and threatens to turn into an acid trip the longer it goes on. Later, he'll quip he's on "drums and screaming" tonight.
All the biggest hits get an airing, of course: Stevie shines on Dreams and Rhiannon, but it's Gold Dust Woman that prompts a standing ovation, as she locks into the song's hypnotic groove and dances like a woman possessed.
Keyboardist crystalline Christine McVie's voice has lost a little of its range with age — at 76 she's Fleetwood's oldest member — but that's a minor quibble about a woman who's delivered many of Mac's most enduring pop hits. Little Lies, Everywhere, You Make Loving Fun are all instant crowd-pleasers.
So Fleetwood Mac look — and sound — a little different from the last time they visited our shores. Think of this new-look Mac as a union of music legends that creates a special kind of kismet: As Finn reveals before the band play Split Enz's I Got You, back in 1980 when the song broke internationally, Nicks would watch it on MTV and sing along, making up her own harmonies as she goes. Now, almost 40 years later, she gets to sing them on stage with the man who wrote the song.
Fleetwood Mac is playing concerts in Auckland and Dunedin next month.